Apple, Google drop Russian opposition app ahead of election

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in iOS
Russia's "Smart Voting" election app has been removed from the App Store and Google Play, in what an opposition spokesperson calls "political censorship."

Alexei Navalny | Image Credit: Evgeny Feldman / Novaya Gazeta
Alexei Navalny | Image Credit: Evgeny Feldman / Novaya Gazeta


Following Russia's demand that Apple and Google remove the tactical voting app, and then threats of fines, Apple and Google have dropped the "Smart Voting" app in the country.

The app, devised by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was intended to boost candidates with the best chance of succeeding against incumbents. Apple and Google's removal came just hours before election voting was due to begin.

Russian watchdog group Roskomnadzor claims that the app promotes extremist activity by the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). Developer Ivan Zhdanov announced the removal on Twitter, and (in translation), described it as a "mockery of common sense."



"Formal reason for removing applications: recognition of FBK [as] an extremist organization," continues the developer's tweet. "The way the FBK was recognized as an extremist organization was not a court, but by mockery of common sense. Google, Apple, make a huge mistake."

"The decision to remove Navalny's app from Google Play... and App Store... is a huge disappointment," tweeted a spokeswoman. "This is an act of political censorship and it can't be justified."

Apple's message to the developer says that "Smart Voting" will no longer be on the App Store in the country "because it includes content that is illegal in Russia."

Russia has previously fined Apple $12 million over an antitrust issue. Apple is currently appealing

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    If apple is this quick and willing to remove an app that oppressive governments want removed trust me they will be just as willing to add a database that scans citizens phones to search for literature or pictures those same governments demand if not doing so would ban them from doing business there.
    rcfabeowulfschmidtrinosaurJaiOh81AI_liassdw2001darkvadermuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 2 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,857member
    If side loading was allowed this wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem.  Just saying.
    rcfaAI_liasdarkvaderJWSC
  • Reply 3 of 24
    rcfarcfa Posts: 1,102member
    And that right there proves that CSAM scanning would turn into an unmitigated disaster, as demands for control over the content of the hash database and notifications of matches be in the hands of government agencies would come as soon as the “feature” would be deployed.

    It also shows why side loading and authenticated root access by owners of a device must be possible: to load apps that Apple can’t or doesn’t want to offer on its brand, sales, and local laws driven AppStore:

    users must be able to have the ultimate decision over what software runs on their devices and have the ability to inspect the running system for spyware etc.

    The “just trust us to do the right thing” and “do no evil” approach has run its course. It’s time for “trust but verify”…
    muthuk_vanalingambeowulfschmidtmobirdrinosaurJaiOh81AI_liassdw2001darkvaderJWSC
  • Reply 4 of 24
    Why can't Apple and Google just go to the court to argue their case? Do Apple and Google have no spine at all? I am very disappointed at Apple and Google as a shareholder.
    AI_lias
  • Reply 5 of 24
    mubaili said:
    Why can't Apple and Google just go to the court to argue their case? Do Apple and Google have no spine at all? I am very disappointed at Apple and Google as a shareholder.
    1. That's not how it works in Russia. Even if they did go to court it's controlled by the current regime and they will 100% lose and possibly face prison time in Russia. 

    2. Sell your stocks. 
    dewmewatto_cobrafrost_0nejony0
  • Reply 6 of 24
    mubaili said:
    Why can't Apple and Google just go to the court to argue their case? Do Apple and Google have no spine at all? I am very disappointed at Apple and Google as a shareholder.
    1. That's not how it works in Russia. Even if they did go to court it's controlled by the current regime and they will 100% lose and possibly face prison time in Russia. 

    2. Sell your stocks. 
    At least they can put up a display of willingness to fight (a little) instead of rolling over.
    darkvadermuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 24
    maltzmaltz Posts: 282member
    AI_lias said:
    mubaili said:
    Why can't Apple and Google just go to the court to argue their case? Do Apple and Google have no spine at all? I am very disappointed at Apple and Google as a shareholder.
    1. That's not how it works in Russia. Even if they did go to court it's controlled by the current regime and they will 100% lose and possibly face prison time in Russia. 

    2. Sell your stocks. 
    At least they can put up a display of willingness to fight (a little) instead of rolling over.

    That's not how it works in Russia either...  Some people really don't grasp how good we really have it in the West.
    edited September 17 robabawatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 8 of 24
    maltz said:
    AI_lias said:
    mubaili said:
    Why can't Apple and Google just go to the court to argue their case? Do Apple and Google have no spine at all? I am very disappointed at Apple and Google as a shareholder.
    1. That's not how it works in Russia. Even if they did go to court it's controlled by the current regime and they will 100% lose and possibly face prison time in Russia. 

    2. Sell your stocks. 
    At least they can put up a display of willingness to fight (a little) instead of rolling over.

    That's not how it works in Russia either...  Some people really don't grasp how good we really have it in the West.
    So you are telling me that they cannot put up a token resistance, only to show us they didn't just roll over for Putin? Or maybe put out a PR statement saying look we had to remove this in Russia, but we support Navalny and we think he is being mistreated? At the risk of losing all business in Russia? I have an idea how things might work in Russia because I grew up in a communist country. I'm not the biggest expert on Russia, but this does not sit well with me. 
    muthuk_vanalingamJWSC
  • Reply 9 of 24
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,766member
    crowley said:
    If side loading was allowed this wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem.  Just saying.
    People can jailbreak their iPhones if they want.

    No way will Apple allow side loading.  
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 10 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,857member
    sflocal said:
    crowley said:
    If side loading was allowed this wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem.  Just saying.
    People can jailbreak their iPhones if they want.

    No way will Apple allow side loading.  
    Jailbreaking wipes out your update options.  Not a reasonable solution. 

    So you're ok with Apple kow-towing to authoritarian dictators, but not with sideloading apps?  Weird priorities.
    jony0
  • Reply 11 of 24
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,778member
    crowley said:
    If side loading was allowed this wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem.  Just saying.
    Local legal compliance is “a problem”? That says a lot. 
  • Reply 12 of 24
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,778member
    Well done Apple. Nobody wants a US company inflicting US social values outside of it own jurisdiction. That sounds like a precursor to colonialism.
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 13 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,857member
    mcdave said:
    crowley said:
    If side loading was allowed this wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem.  Just saying.
    Local legal compliance is “a problem”? That says a lot. 
    Reducing this brazen political censorship to just an issue of local legal compliance?  Russias is hurting and Apple is playing a part in that, and sideloading would mean they weren't in such an awkward position.

    Yes, it very much is a problem if you oppose Putin in Russia and are trying to mount a challenge.
    jony0
  • Reply 14 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,857member
    mcdave said:
    Well done Apple. Nobody wants a US company inflicting US social values outside of it own jurisdiction. That sounds like a precursor to colonialism.
    This is a crazy read.

    Political oppression is not a "social value" anywhere, it's something that is forced on people by the powerful.  And Apple, by virtue of their walled garden, are acting as tools of the authoritarian state.


  • Reply 15 of 24
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,562moderator
    rcfa said:
    It also shows why side loading and authenticated root access by owners of a device must be possible: to load apps that Apple can’t or doesn’t want to offer on its brand, sales, and local laws driven AppStore:

    users must be able to have the ultimate decision over what software runs on their devices and have the ability to inspect the running system for spyware etc.

    The “just trust us to do the right thing” and “do no evil” approach has run its course. It’s time for “trust but verify”…
    Side-loading and 3rd party stores are allowed on Android and that has 80% marketshare in Russia so if that was the solution then it would be sorted out by now:

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/262174/market-share-held-by-mobile-operating-systems-in-russia/

    Apps like this can also be made as a web app or just a website but Russia and other countries control their internet access so people are trying to use App Stores as a way of bypassing internet censorship:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_in_Russia

    What's tiresome is that people in these countries think that this is the appropriate way to go about this. If they aren't happy with their government controlling their internet, they can leave the country or if enough people aren't happy about it, try to force a change of government. It's not up to Western countries to babysit them.

    If they sit by for years and allow oppressive governments to reach this level already, that's where the problem is. There's not much point in trying to scapegoat companies like Apple and Google for not standing up to the monster they helped create. Apple and Google can only use the same censored internet service in those countries.

    Services like Starlink might be able to help eventually but not for a long time and won't come without resistance:

    https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/3089854/elon-musks-starlink-game-changer-chinas-great-firewall-and-hedge

    Apple has no more obligation to allow unvetted software on their OS than a Smart TV vendor or console vendor. Apple designed it as a closed device for security. Loosening system restrictions for the user does the same for malware as the Mac and Android systems show.

    They also do allow other stores via the enterprise program and people are distributing apps not allowed on the App Store that way.

    What they could do is allow web app packages to be installed and distributed more easily. That would help Apple in some ways because it can take most of the apps that are little more than website wrappers out of the App Store approval process. But this opens up the possibility of phishing apps being made to look like official banking or crypto apps and stealing login credentials.

    Ultimately, if other countries want to deal with their oppressive governments, they need to do it by themselves and stop constantly trying to drag civilized countries into their mess to do it for them.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 16 of 24
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,778member
    crowley said:
    mcdave said:
    Well done Apple. Nobody wants a US company inflicting US social values outside of it own jurisdiction. That sounds like a precursor to colonialism.
    This is a crazy read.

    Political oppression is not a "social value" anywhere, it's something that is forced on people by the powerful.  And Apple, by virtue of their walled garden, are acting as tools of the authoritarian state.


    The only thing crazy is the inability to see beyond our social programming. The very fact many see authoritative government as wrong is simply a reinforcement mechanism to justify our own flavour of government. 

    A better example of political oppression would be a coalition which invades countries which hold different social values, slaughter hundreds of thousands of their citizens who dare to defend themselves & try to install its own social system i.e. colonisation. But who would commit such an horrific act? Who would  knowingly endorse such a thing & how could they ever hope to get away with it?
    edited September 19
  • Reply 17 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,857member
    mcdave said:
    crowley said:
    mcdave said:
    Well done Apple. Nobody wants a US company inflicting US social values outside of it own jurisdiction. That sounds like a precursor to colonialism.
    This is a crazy read.

    Political oppression is not a "social value" anywhere, it's something that is forced on people by the powerful.  And Apple, by virtue of their walled garden, are acting as tools of the authoritarian state.


    The only thing crazy is the inability to see beyond our social programming. The very fact many see authoritative government as wrong is simply a reinforcement mechanism to justify our own flavour of government. 

    A better example of political oppression would be a coalition which invades countries which hold different social values, slaughter hundreds of thousands of their citizens who dare to defend themselves & try to install its own social system i.e. colonisation. But who would commit such an horrific act? Who would  knowingly endorse such a thing & how could they ever hope to get away with it?
    Why do you keep talking about colonialism?  Colonialism has nothing to do with Russia's authoritarian corruption, its persecution of opposition, and Apple's passive enablement of anti-democratic censorship.
  • Reply 18 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,857member
    Marvin said:

    What's tiresome is that people in these countries think that this is the appropriate way to go about this. If they aren't happy with their government controlling their internet, they can leave the country or if enough people aren't happy about it, try to force a change of government. It's not up to Western countries to babysit them.
    It's all just so tiresome that these regular people who want fair elections aren't able to get them from the powerful and corrupt.  They should just leave or force a change.

    Just leave.  Leave everything you know, your family, your friends, the place that you live, and your language.  Just leave.  
    Just leave.  Even if your home country makes it very difficult to go, even if other countries make it difficult for you to arrive, and with no guarantee that your home country will ever allow you to return.  Just leave.

    Or just force a change in government.  Campaign against a president that wins 70+% of the vote, and controls the elections.  Just force a change in government.
    Just force a change in government.  Even if the government routinely imprisons the opposition, seizes their assets and persecutes their families.  Just force a change in government.

    It's all so easy, all you need to do is leave or force a change in government.  So tiresome my AppleInsider threads are riddled with this.  I can barely do anything without one of "them" from one of "those" countries begging for help from one of "my" companies. 

    When the USA revolted against its overseas imperial government it did it completely alone.  No one helped, just the blood of US patriots.  Not a single ask was made of anyone else.  No siree.


    Jfc the entitlement and naivety.
  • Reply 19 of 24
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,562moderator
    crowley said:
    Or just force a change in government.  Campaign against a president that wins 70+% of the vote, and controls the elections.  Just force a change in government.
    Just force a change in government.  Even if the government routinely imprisons the opposition, seizes their assets and persecutes their families.  Just force a change in government.

    It's all so easy, all you need to do is leave or force a change in government.
    It's not easy but those are the options. If the majority of a country doesn't align with what some people want and the outcome adversely affects their life then that's what they have to do.

    The problems with the Russian government are for the people of Russia to resolve, if they want to. Apple's and Google's employees aren't martyrs, they were threatened with criminal prosecution. The two ways this would have gone are that either Apple and Google took down the apps or Apple and Google employees would end up in prison and they'd take the stores down.

    It's unlikely this takedown would affect the outcome of the election that is taking place right now. If anything it would boost Putin's opposition. The Russian elections are always portrayed as unfair but if it was to the degree that tens of millions of people felt the same way, they wouldn't allow it to continue for over 20 years.

    As much as it's nice to think that countries should be driven by what's just and fair, they are driven by how much the leadership represents what's important to the public and this is a mixture of ideology and economic prosperity. There's no indication that the majority of the Russian people oppose Putin's leadership nor any indication to suggest any opposition candidate has the level of support to contest it. Regardless of how that situation comes about, the people of Russia are educated adults with the ability to reason and act on their own volition and they can check the boxes for someone else.
    crowley said:
    When the USA revolted against its overseas imperial government it did it completely alone.  No one helped, just the blood of US patriots.  Not a single ask was made of anyone else.  No siree.
    Apple and Google (and Telegram) aren't elected governments that are in control of international government relationships or military operations, they can only help within the boundary of the laws of the countries they operate in. Telegram said that the ban was justified and companies like Facebook place restrictions during elections:

    https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/navalny-allies-accuse-telegram-censorship-russian-election-2021-09-18/

    "the decision had been taken because of a Russian ban on campaigning once polls are open, which he considered legitimate and is similar to bans in many other countries."

    https://abcnews.go.com/US/facebook-ban-political-advertisements-election-day-fight-misinformation/story?id=72790831
  • Reply 20 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,857member
    So many words, so little of it relevant, or showing any generosity of spirit.

    There isn't a great body of people petitioning Apple to reinstate the app, so I don't know what's "tiresome".

    The suggestion that things can't be that unfair for the millions of powerless for 20 whole years or one of them would have changed it is just plain ignorant of most of the history of human existence.

    There's no indication that Putin sees significant opposition, and yet his most popular opponents get censored, imprisoned and prevented from running.  Others turn up dead.  Funny that.

    The reasons for the Apple takedown are different from Telegram.  The developer letter clearly said it was related to the Anti-Corruption Fund being considered an extremist organisation.  While Apple have to comply with the law, they don't have to do so quietly, and they don't have to do so to the complete exclusion of the app.  They've let themselves become a tool of authoritarianism and censorship through their own business choices.

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